Mojza Blog

an extensive guide on o levels

by Fasiha Raza | 26 Feb 2023

What is O Levels?

O-Level stands for Ordinary Level. It is the first part of GCE (General Certificate of Education) that students of ages 14-16 (no age restriction) have to go through to complete their schooling. Students, after completing their O’ Levels, can either go for A’Levels, which is the second part of GCE,  or Intermediate: which includes F.SC, FA, I.COM., and ISC.

Cambridge O’ Level is an internationally recognised qualification that is equivalent to the Cambridge IGCSE and the UK GCSE. It is specially designed for foreign students who plan to study abroad. The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of all students, particularly those whose first language is not English. 


Students in Pakistan are required to take at least eight subjects. Out of those 8 subjects, there are 5 compulsory subjects, which are: Maths, English, First Language Urdu/Second Language Urdu, Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat. The remaining 3 subjects are called electives. The electives are a combination of subjects a student has to take depending on the field they plan to join. The following table includes all the combinations and the subjects:

Combination/ Field



Biology, Chemistry, Physics

Engineering / IT 

Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science


Business Studies, Accounting, Economics

Humanitarian / Arts

There are no specific subjects in O’Levels but 3 are mandatory.

Students can, however, take more than 8 subjects because o’level offers 40 different subjects. Subjects chosen other than the electives are known as Optional Subjects. Popular optional subjects include: Environmental Management (5014), History (2147), Global Perspectives (2069), Add-Maths (4037), and more.

You can explore more about subjects by clicking on the link: Subjects.


O’ Levels are typically completed in three years. The first year, which is often referred to as O1, C1 or Class 8/9, is the year in which students are to study all eight subjects.  In O2, C2 or Class 9/10, students majorly appear for three subjects, which are Pakistan Studies, Urdu and Islamiyat. In the final year, which is O3, C3 or Class 10/11, students appear for the remaining 5 subjects.

This is one way of taking your Cambridge exams. One can also skip school and take their exams privately as a Private Candidate. Those who appear privately must still appear in a minimum of eight subjects and have to study independently. 

You can read our “Self Study VS Schools VS Tuition” blog to learn more about Private Candidates!


Preparing for O’ Level exams can be a bumpy ride. Firstly, students should be familiar with their subjects’ syllabi and components. Next up, students should prepare their subjects by studying according to the syllabus from Cambridge, use the recommended books and do questions from them. Lastly, they should do past papers, which can be found from websites such as Mojza, Papa Cambridge, GCE Guide and others.

Assessment and Papers

There are two exam series every year in which students can appear for their exams. These are the May/June and the October/November series. Exams start in late April and end in early June in the May/June series, and start in late September and end mid-November in the October/November series. Another thing to know is that countries who take Cambridge exams are divided into 6 zones. Pakistan is in Zone 4.

You can learn more here on Timetables and Zones.

Furthermore, there are 2-3 sessions every day during those months. Those are: AM, PM, and EV. Majority of the papers are taken during the AM and PM sessions, with only a few taken during the EV. Papers are taken on the weekdays, and weekends are breaks. 

You can check the sessions’ timings here on Key times.

Next up, each subject has a few components/papers that students have to give in order to complete their exam. Most O’ Level subjects have two components, with a few having a choice of three out of four components. Together, the marks obtained in these components make up the final grade. Another thing to add is that students can retake their exams as many times as they want in order to improve their grade.


Cambridge O’ Level results are shown by  the grades A*, A, B, C, D or E, indicating the standard achieved, A* being the highest and E the lowest. ‘Ungraded’ indicates that the candidate’s performance fell short of the standard required for grade E. ‘Ungraded’ will be reported on the statement of results but not on the certificate. The letters Q (pending), X (no result) and Y (to be issued) may also appear on the statement of results but not on the certificate.

You can learn more about grading on Grading.


Cambridge O’ Level is internationally recognized by schools, universities, and employers as being equivalent in demand to Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), so those who take it have a better chance of admission to foreign universities.

By clicking on the link, you can learn more about Cambridge Recognition.


Author: Fasiha Raza


About Mojza

Mojza is a student-led organisation aiming to provide quality resources for Cambridge students.

Other than such weekly blogs, Mojza offers resources for your O levels, IGCSE, and A levels journey. We have notes from reputable teachers, our own original notes and a library of other helpful websites and resources!

Check out our home page!

Published: 26 February 2023
Last Updated: 19 July 2023
Written by Fasiha Raza